“Calling all the people here to see the show
Calling for my demons now to let me go
I need something, give me something wonderful”
As someone who almost opted to become a professional DJ, it’s fortunate that my favourite song of this year is Love and Hate by Michael Kiwanuka, with the lyrics above.
Last Monday, I was on a panel in front of 100+ young students and managers who were participating in a competition that Tata sponsors annually called TBLA. The theme was big data, and since I led this group wide initiative by setting up a new company focussed on data analytics, the participants were quizzing me on its potential. Suddenly, a colleague comes and whispers in my ear that Chairman Cyrus Mistry has been asked to step down. My head jerks – what? But I am on a panel, so keep answering the questions but signal to the facilitator that we need to wrap this up early. I let the organizers know that I will skip the dinner that follows.
Back in my apartment trying to get information from the company with little success. At 9:00 pm, I get a call from a colleague with whom I had worked very closely and got along famously as we were often on the same side of arguments. He informs me: “it is my unpleasant duty to say your services are no longer required”. No explanation. I query does this mean I do not need to show up tomorrow morning? Receive an affirmative reply. That’s it. It’s all over in a minute. Now readers, no pity is needed. It is something that has happened to many, and there are entire reality shows on TV built around the theme “You are fired!” But, still nothing prepares you for this. I realize that I am unemployed for the first time since the age of 18.
My first thoughts go to the 70+ people I had accumulated in the Big Data team over the past year. What is going to happen to them? They joined on my word that we were going to make this a core capability of the group. Quickly, I shoot off a text message to a colleague with a plea to take charge of this venture. My four-member team, I am less concerned about as they are enormously talented and familiar enough with the group to land on their feet.
“You can’t break me down
You can’t take me down”
The following morning, what to do? Well, a bit lost, and ready at 8:30, instead of the usual 8:00, I head for my morning Starbucks coffee. I find a new proposition for Starbucks that never occurred to me previously: a place for unemployed managers, all dressed in suits, with nowhere to go. Yes, there is the office to clear out and a final settlement to be agreed on, but I am in no mood to go to Bombay House for this. It can wait for another day.
Once fired, you discover your friends and the integral qualities of those who worked with you. The interesting insight for me was that the higher in the organization you go, this “human” aspect declines. The people at the “bottom” of the pyramid treated me with the same respect and affection as always. Their smiles were genuine and open. Those in the middle, like my team were sincerely sad to see me go. They repeatedly mentioned what fun it was to have worked with me. It was not as if I was fired for non-performance (my last evaluation was excellent). I always do my best – it’s the least I expect from myself and the most anyone can expect from me. I was fired for just being there at my position – working intensely and extensively with Cyrus.
The reaction at the top of the pyramid was interesting. With three exceptions, the many CEOs and top executives I worked with closely for three years went silent. I wonder what it is that the more we have, the more we become prisoners at the thought of losing it, rather than having it set us free. The lesson for my team was clear. I told them these people have made it to the top. They know how the system works. When in future anyone mentions me, please don’t say anything positive. Throw me under the bus to gain credibility in the new regime. It’s my parting advice.
“You can’t steal the things that God has given me
No more pain and no more shame and misery”
Despite the unceremonious and un-Tata like end, I have nothing negative to say about the Tata group. It was not the fault of the 670,000 Tata people and does not reflect on them. What I found exceptional about the group was the kind of person that Tata attracts – unpretentious and dedicated. Yes, they really drink, as we would say in America, the “koolaid” of Tata. But I observed how hard they work, and how committed they are to the group and its values. They deserve a great Chairman.
Finally, I really loved the job. It gave me, an academic, a ring side seat to a 100+ billion dollar group. The amazing discussions we had on what the group should look like in 2025, bouncing ideas back and forth, challenging each other, and then coming to a joint view and understanding of the potential portfolio 2025, after debating the trends and financial prospects. In my 30 year career, I had only three bosses who inspired me: Lou Stern, my PhD advisor at Northwestern University; Laura Tyson, my dean at LBS; and you. Thank you, Cyrus.
Let me end with the lines from Bruce Springsteen that were plastered on my walls as a teenager:
“Someday girl I don’t know when
We’re gonna get to that place
Where we really wanna go
And we’ll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us
Baby we were born to run”
Well, folks, I am there, despite being unemployed. And, I am done running.
84 Comments Add yours
Mr Anonymous, Dr. N. Kumar has given an advise for you
When in future anyone mentions me, please don’t say anything positive. Throw me under the bus to gain credibility in the new regime. It’s my parting advice.
This is most suitable for you .
What a positive and unabashedly honest article on a life event most people would paint negative! Hats off to your inner strength and clarity of thoughts. Stay blessed.
Been there. Done that at Mahindra.
I don’t know you yet I can feel your pain at this moment and empathise with your plight! Trust me God has better plans for you hence you have been shunted out from here in this manner. Else you would have probably retired from this company and would have done a great injustice to yourself.
Rejoice and count your blessings – more will be revealed in the coming days. This could just about be the best thing that has happened to you in a long while.
With Warm Hugs
What a great and funny post! I know whatever the next chapter is it will be brilliant Nirmalya. And I didn’t know you were a DJ!!! See you soon, Niru
Well written, frank and respectfully worded
You have voiced your views with sensitivity and without malice, two qualities Ratan Tata seems to lack.
Whether the firing was deserved or not this is the reality of corporate life. Especially if you get identified as being in someones group.
Personally i feel as long as you are financially stable , their is absolutely no need to stick to corporate jobs which have too much politics.
A few months back I left my job of more than 5 years as i felt that the higher i rose , the lesser i wanted to interact with the type of people inhabiting the senior levels. Interacting everyday with a insecure boss who contributed nothing except maintaining his relations with the top guy .
When you know that good measurable results are not enough its time to move on.
I resigned my job , and my bosses comment on seeing my resgn letter was ” everyone will blame me “.
The day after a pretty good increment i put in my papers without trying to find another job.
Went to Brazil to see the olympic games for a fortnight.Had a very good time.
Disclaimer .I have no liabilities , so everyone cant follow my path.
About being cold shouldered, after getting fired. Well i left my job voluntarily and very few of my ‘good’ colleagues were ready to even speak to me. Bet they think i was forced out.
People have responsibilities and jobs are hard to come by at a senior level.So their response is totally understandable.
I am still not looking for a job because i dont want to again enter a similar environment.
I want a job which i can enjoy , a tall order i know.
Look for something where you can make a visible difference .
Why not adopt a poor village(S) and help them get basics like furniture for their classrooms .
I am rambling on but this is your chance to do something .
What an inspiring post from a person who has just been fired.
I have fired people in my corporate days in the past and also got fired myself.
If the guys I fired had written such a post, I would have been compelled to fire myself.
Please dont be done with running, keep running and keep inspiring us.
For first time in Life, Tata loosing respect. That did not happen after Neera R tapes. R u listening Ratan Bro..
Great read. A reflection of a committed employee.
You seem to be relishing your firing. It like waiting to visit a favourite restaurant and then ordering the favourite menu item and then waiting impatiently to devour it and finally sit back with satisfaction of it happening.
I fully sympathize with your plight, as I also suffering from same plight and nightmare by joining TATA NYK Shipping Pvt Ltd. last year. They have not confirmed my services after working 9 months, and I am now jobless since last three months. I really deeply regret by joining Tata NYK Shipping, where management are biased and violating the Tata Values. Thanks
An honest evaluation of an unfortunate episode in ones professional life. I share your anguish as do many others under similar circumstances and also came out much stronger and wiser.
faded it is , rise up you will
DJ knows the beat 🙏
__ current Tcs employee
Without any disrespect to your immense knowledge Tata is not the company for innovators.. Especially in IT.. For any serious techie or bug data analyst there are far more challenging problems to solve than joining a group like Tata or reliance. In my college joining outsourcing companies was the biggest shame and nobody wanted to share this news..
An honest and brilliant confession.
we are born to run
I have read this in three separate newspapers, I’m in your blog because I was sent a link, but had to say I like your spirit.
Nirmalaya, with Brexit looming, the Trump presidency and now this, you must think the world is nuts. Have you considered shifting to New Zealand? I find that the people at the top here are very similar to the people at the “bottom”. Happy to play host if you’re thinking of dropping by for some R&R.
Expressing Honest views in difficult situation like this shows your strong positive attitude towards the life .. only thing I can say is that You are not alone . If u see your left & right u will find similar people facing similar challenges .. Suggestion is Why can’t we Explore the possibility of Collobration .
The standout line in your blog post – “what it is that the more we have, the more we become prisoners at the thought of losing it, rather than having it set us free”
So true – all the best!
“what it is that the more we have, the more we become prisoners at the thought of losing it, rather than having it set us free..”
The standout line in your blog post!
All the best
Only in India do people still put Tata, Birla, etc on a pedestal and worship them like gods. Those “industrial houses” aka business clans don’t give a rat’s ass about anything. What has Tata done for India lately? Oops, nothing … Nano was a big flop, but they’ll sell boatloads of that future clunker to millions of hapless Indians. Tata’s also known to promote only aapro bawa no dikro. Enough said. But wait, isn’t Reliance the worst of the filthy stinking garbage known as Indian corporates, with the constant backstabbing, insane politics and endless licking-ambanis-behinds? Amen to Nirmalya.
Mr. Nirmalya, In my previous comments I appreciated your heart felts comments and advised you to go ahead in life and with your excellent back ground you can attain your objectives in any other Industry or Universities.. But alas instead of moving ahead, you are indulging in mud throwing in Public along with Cyrus against Ratan Tata. What is your stake against Ratan Tata? Yes Cyrus has some stake in Tata group as a share holder and he can do mud throwing by which he is destroying Tata image and diminishing Tata market value in share market which he is doing just malign Ratan Tata. He is a rich man and will not bother if Tata share price comes down just take revenge on Ratan Tata. What about you? Just you are close buddy of cyrus,you too join his wagon? You are highly educated person and dont be silly chamcha of Cyrus.
Lesson learned at Sykes, AT&T, Tech-Data, Jabil, etc… doesn’t matter where, who or when: You need to do temperature checks of your boss’s popularity and have your finger on the pulse re: who he is in contention with and who in the company is on a rising tide of influence. You need to be sure not cross someone that could replace your boss or convince the C execs to remove your boss. If they think that you are not a team player or would have the same resistance from you that they didn’t appreciate from him, then you will be removed too. The higher you go, the more business resembles the politics of the King’s court. It is a chess game and you must always think ahead and the dynamics between all the players to stay alive
Nirmalya – It’s hard to believe it has been 25 years since Polly and I sat in your classroom in State College. It’s no surprise that you still hold the same great values 1) integrity 2) passion for the brand and 3) appreciation for creativity and history in both your thinking and the arts. Cheers to the best Marketing professor and mentor I ever had. It has served me well in good and tough times. Curt “CJ” Johnson, class of ’94 MBA, Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business
This is just a one side of the story. As a former tata employee I believe Cyrus is not a right person to lead tata group to next level.
It is anecdotally observed that most employees prefer Ratan Tata to Cyrus Mistry. Does it mean that whereas Ratan Tata is people-oriented, Cyrus Mistry is more task-oriented?
We are starting Space Mission schools for innovation.We need you as our director for our mission
Truly admire the candor and humility, I salute you with an attitude of gratitude, for sharing this
Jumping, hopping, skipping on the web, I came across this blog….and I am truly amazed at the wonderful writing skills – the flow of content, apt lyrics added intermittently. Thanks for sharing your lovely thoughts…hats off to you and Good luck for your future…
LikeLiked by 1 person
As Sr. Practice Head of TATA Strategic and member of Group Globalisation Committee during the tenure of CPM, we had several interesting strategic meetings and brainstorming sessions.
I have thoroughly enjoyed working with you. And it was always great learning experience for me.
You are a ‘Great Thinker’ I am Inspired, and Aspire to be like you.
Many of the strategic decisions are actually planned during CPM days are actually implemented today.
I agree that this entire situation was unlike TATAs